Saturday, May 19, 2012

Visit to Polyface Farms

Have you watched the documentary, Food Inc?  (if not, the description on Amazon says that it "lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing how our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. Food, Inc. reveals surprising - and often shocking truths - about what we eat, how it's produced and who we have become as a nation. You'll never look at dinner the same way again.")

Powerful film.  Watch it. 

Anyways, the farm featured on the film that does things the right way is Polyface Farms. It's a family-owned, multi-genenerational, pasture based, beyond organic, local-market farm and informational outreach in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. 

We went for a tour last week.  (Being home schoolers is so great - this was an amazing field trip for the whole family.)

It was fantastic!!

The tour included about 100 people and was led by Joel Salatin, the farm owner.  We rode hay wagons out to the far pastures of the property so we could see the hens and cows.

A few of the laying hens - out to pasture.

The hens weren't bothered by people at all....Annika was pretty thrilled to check them out. 

This is the farm dog/security system, Michael.  He's gigantic!  Very friendly dog, so sweet and gentle, just laid on the ground soaking up attention from the kiddos when we first got to the farm (we arrived early for the tour and ate our picnic lunch there) - then we came to find out that he roams the farm at night keeping away predators from the free-roaming hens, including packs of coyotes and other varmints, and apparently eats at least a couple of skunks a month (they only know about those because of his scent) who knows what else.  I can't remember the cross of breeds that he is.....but you can tell that his back is just about as high as Ellia's head, so he's a big guy.  

The hens eat maggots in the cow manure - sounds gross, but is really beneficial for both the land and the chickens.  Did you know that the seven enzymes necessary for chickens' digestion are all found in cow manure?  
Yeah, I didn't either.

We only got a peek at a few of the cows - they were in a wooded area that day (the cattle and hens are all moved from pasture to pasture every day, the hens following behind the cows) and they wandered off where we couldn't see them much.

Michael met a tiny dog that another lady on the tour brought with her.  I thought their interaction was so cute!

Miranda started out in the Ergo with me but got really mad about it and so Grant took her, and she fell asleep.  So I was left wearing the Ergo with no baby and Grant had to carry her asleep.  He didn't mind so much.

More of the hens gathered around their "Egg mobile", the portable henhouse that gets moved from pasture to pasture every day. 
I had no idea chickens were so loud.  We had to strain to hear Joel speaking sometimes over the din of the clucking, squawking, and chattering. 
Marissa's favorite part of the tour.  She talked the nice lady into letting her hold the puppy, and that was the end of it for her. 

Ellia and me on the hayride.

Grant with Marissa, Annika, and still sleeping Miranda on the hayride.

This is the scenery we saw on the hayride.  Isn't it incredible?  The eight mile drive out of town (Staunton, VA) to the farm was just scenery like this.   

Corban and Ellia hanging out on the wagon.

Marissa and Annika liked the pigs. The pigs are free-roaming, rotating paddocks in the pastures most of the time.

Somebody's awake now....just barely.

Okay, she's perking up a little now.

These are the portable broiler houses - they get moved around the pasture every day so the chickens get new areas to eat.  They're very secure but have plenty of space to enjoy a natural life -  until they're processed.   The design of the little pens was so simple, yet really great. 
Miranda and me at the end of the tour.  Look at that face!

We really loved the farm and the people and everything about it.  It gives us dreams......wild, crazy, hair-brained dreams for city folk like us......

Stay tuned for where we went next on our trip.......hopefully I'll get it up soon!


  1. Amazing!! Looks like you had lots of fun and to get a tour by Joel himself! How cool is that. The pics are great. We just love his ideas of farming, and tend to "follow" his example to farming. We go as natural as we can in our little space! Our chickens love the cow poop too!
    Can't wait to see where you went next. Hard act to follow though, my being a country girl and all!!

    1. We loved it....I wanted to get a photo of the kids with Joel afterwards, but he was swamped with people asking questions so we didn't get the chance. He's such a great guy....Sooo helpful and full of knowledge!
      I think it's great what you guys do with your farm - maybe someday we'll get to do something similar.

  2. You got to go to the Salatins'?!!!! That is so cool!

    Hmm - I wonder if he's changed the design of his coops? I sure thought they seemed bigger from his book....

    the dog is a Great Pyrenees. They are awesome dogs! for outside.... ;-)

    The blog looks great! (I usually read in my reader, so I hadn't seen your 'new' header yet...)

    1. The Eggmobiles are pretty big - I didn't get a full shot of one of them. Don't know why I didn't. :( The broiler pens were much smaller, as you can tell.

      The dog might have been part Great Pyrenees - but there was definitely something else in there too....something I had never heard of before. I'll have to ask Grant if he remembers. Great dog!

      You would totally love their farm....
      Which book of his do you have?

    2. we have Salad Bar Beef (although we loaned it out & it still hasn't been returned, even though I've asked for it...) and the poultry one (I forget what it's called - maybe Pastuered Poultry?) I'd like to read the others, too; they're kinda pricey though...


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